June 27, 2005
Carpenters Officially Join Dissident Coalition
Today's Washington Post reports the following:
WASHINGTON -- The main national carpenter's union is joining a coalition of some of the nation's largest unions challenging the AFL-CIO's approach to leading the labor movement.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America broke away from the labor federation in 2001, saying it was shifting more of its resources to organizing and was impatient for the AFL-CIO to do the same.
Jonathan Tasini's Working Life blog features more analysis
June 26, 2005
Labor Scholar Offers Insight On Labor Debate
The announcement this month that five prominent labor leaders were forming their own organization, "Change to Win," may well be the first step toward a breakup of the AFL-CIO at its annual convention next month.
Conservatives in politics and business are gleeful at the prospect, while many ordinary citizens merely shrug their shoulders. Only one out of nine American workers are represented by a trade union, down from more than one-third of the workforce 50 years ago, so the fragmentation of the AFL-CIO would seem to have little impact on the majority of Americans.
(see above link for the rest)
June 25, 2005
New Nation Article on AFL-CIO Debate
It seems almost certain that SEIU will leave the federation, perhaps even before the convention. But it's still unclear whether others will leave and whether Change to Win will become an alternative federation. Ongoing negotiations could bear fruit; for instance, Sweeney might still offer a bigger organizing rebate. There are also discussions under way about creating committees of unions by industry (like the airlines) and redefining federation rules and standards for organizing in a particular industry.
June 24, 2005
The Other AFL CIO Debate
However, there is another debate taking place that is substantive but which has garnered little attention: the struggle over the AFL-CIO foreign policy. Labor activists and their organizations have forced this issue before the upcoming convention, but AFL-CIO foreign policy leaders have initiated what appears to be a "dirty tricks" campaign to undercut the activists' charges. By initiating a campaign to get a resolution passed supporting the Solidarity Center-one that specifically refuses to address any of the activists' challenges, especially about Solidarity Center's active involvement in events leading up to the April 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (ala Chile in the early 1970s)-foreign policy leaders are trying to again subvert democracy within the US labor movement. This belies any of their pious claims of wanting to support democracy around the world.
Odds on the AFL's Dissolution
Harold Meyerson has a new column in LA Weekly on the split happening within the AFL-CIO
By now, it is an article of faith on both sides of the labor divide that the 1.8-million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the AFL-CIO’s largest and strongest affiliate, is leaving come what may. What the three other unions that have threatened to leave — the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and UNITE-HERE (the clothing and hotel workers) — may ultimately do is anybody’s guess. The two likeliest outcomes, I’d surmise, will either be SEIU departing solo, or all four leaving together. The prospect that just one of the three on-the-fence unions will secede with SEIU is remote. Even among secessionists, there is strength in numbers, and the numbers in a federation of two just don’t add up.
Some of Sweeney’s leading supporters don’t believe that the dissidents can easily depart. “UNITE-HERE, in my judgment, will remain,” says Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Both the hotel and apparel sides of the union, he argues, have received significant help from the Federation in their boycotts and organizing drives, and the Amalgamated Bank, which UNITE-HERE owns, is vulnerable to a massive withdrawal of funds from unions that deposit there. (The Communications Workers, embroiled in a dispute with UNITE-HERE over the right to represent Indian casino workers in California, has already withdrawn $50 million.) The Teamsters, he continues, have received significant organizing assistance from the Federation, and the UFCW needs an infusion of resources to rebuild its programs and take on Wal-Mart.
Deserving of an article in its own right, Meyerson brings up a peculiartity of the HERE strike in LA:
One argument that SEIU and its allies have repeatedly advanced during the past year is that unions should organize only those employers in their core sectors; increasing union density in particular labor markets is the one sure way of winning good contracts. It’s a sound theory, supported by reams of documentation. But it doesn’t explain the outcome of every single labor struggle, as the recent settlement of the more-than-year-long L.A. hotel dispute makes very clear.
A year-and-a-half ago, when the hotel workers saw their contracts lapse in L.A., San Francisco and Washington, D.C., their goal was to win a shorter-than-usual new contract that would expire in 2006 — the same year that the union’s contracts in New York and other major cities would expire. Having witnessed nationwide supermarket chains defeat the Southern California grocery workers by drawing on their resources in other regions, UNITE-HERE hotel worker president John Wilhelm wanted his members to be able to threaten such nationwide hotel chains as Starwood and Hyatt with nationwide job actions.
This was a demand that the hotels were determined to deny. In San Francisco, they locked out their employees, though they were compelled to end the lockout under considerable union and public pressure. However, the dispute continues and the hotels have yet to agree to 2006. In L.A., the hotels were on the verge of a lockout when they acceded to the demand, and granted the union the 2006 expiration date.
According to the density theory espoused by the dissident unions, UNITE-HERE among them, this shouldn’t have happened this way: San Francisco hotels are much more unionized than their L.A. counterparts. But density, while important, isn’t all. What happened in Los Angeles, according to Maria Elena Durazo, president of Local 11 of UNITE-HERE, is that a wedge opened up between local hotel owners and the national chains that operate the hotels, Starwood and Hyatt in particular. Before the impasse was reached, the Beverly Hilton and the Bel-Air had already agreed to the unions’ conditions, and the owners of the Biltmore and the Wilshire Grand later sent a letter to their fellow owners urging a settlement. In short, what brought down the hotel hardliners in L.A. was a radical lack of solidarity.
June 23, 2005
Conservative Daily Weighs in on AFL-CIO Debate
The Washington Times Op/Ed
UAW President Profiled in Today's NY Times
Today's NY Times features a profile of current UAW President Ron Gettelfinger as well as discussion on the troubles in the US owned Auto industry and upcoming UAW negotiations.
Here is the link:
June 20, 2005
US Healthcare Crisis
Today's LA Times features an excellent piece on the state of Healthcare and its relation to politics. The author contends that the current conflict brewing between General Motors and the United Autoworkers is going to set the stage for the issue in the next political cycle.
Interesting enough it was the UAW and General Motors which set the standard for the US Healthcare regime when in the 40s they negotiated the first ever health and pension clause in a collective bargaining agreement (to be honest I am not sure if this is 100% accurate but this was what I have always been told - corrections appreciated). It seems now 60+ years later it will be the outcome or perhaps the fight itself over healthcare between GM and the UAW that finally puts the nations healthcare crisis front and center.
Check Out the LA times Article Below
Laid Off Unionized Blue Collar Workers
Today's NY Times features an article on a Carrier Air Condition plant that recently closed in NY State (apparently production moved to China).
What is most disturbing is that in the 80s and 90s for the most part stories that featured the effects of a plant closing at least showed a sign that workers were outraged by what was happening to the working class of this country. This latest article however presents to us workers who seem more content and accepting of the fact that they are laid off and will be taking new jobs in different sectors for less pay.
Take Up a New Career at 50? In Syracuse, Life After Layoffs
SYRACUSE - When factories close, the workers who are laid off often feel like dinosaurs in a fast-disappearing industrial age. But when the Carrier Corporation shut down its huge air-conditioning factory here last year, Joseph Huppman saw it as a golden opportunity.
Mr. Huppman, who worked at Carrier for five years after spending 17 years in the Air Force, took advantage of his layoff to pursue a career that had long beckoned to him.
"I always wanted to be a nurse, and the
opportunity never came up before," he said. "Carrier, by sending my job
to China, made the opportunity come up."
But education has not been a cure-all. It does not ensure that the workers will find jobs or, if they do, that the jobs will pay as well as Carrier did. Happy as he is to be a nurse, Mr. Huppman is earning $30,000 a year, half what he earned at Carrier, where he earned $17 an hour and worked hundreds of hours of overtime.
June 18, 2005
Tough Times for Hard Hit Industries Does not Lessen Need for Unions
Many would assume that unions have nothing to offer workers who are in industries which are suffering. However the most important aspect of workers belonging to a labor union is that it gives them a voice and a say in what happens in their workplace and their relationship with the firm.
Take a look at a union drive occuring now at Continental Airlines:
WHEN Continental Airlines announced seven months ago it needed half a billion dollars in employee concessions, fleet service workers knew they'd have to give.
They just didn't know how much, or what, if anything, they could do to lessen the impact.
"We had no voice," lamented Reggie Robinson, who is working with the Transport Workers Union and whose job includes unloading planes and overseeing safety issues. "We had to go with what the company told us."